Broken hand…..

35 year olds have no business trying to make diving outfield catches in beer league softball. As a result of those shenanigans I now have a broken hand . . . 2 fractured metacarpals. Hand Doc appt. Thurs.

Blogging/social media will continue but with much shorter and more concise posts. (That might be a good thing?!)

Anyone know good dictation software?

Softball Fail

Softball Fail


Resulting in this....

Resulting in this….


Lower Macungie Commissioners Agenda Preview 2/6/14

FYI –  In these previews I may indicate thoughts on an issue, but it in no way means my mind is set. During a critical hearing for the Jaindl issue, a Commissioner spoke before public comment outlining he was voting to move forward the project regardless of what people said during public comment. That was wrong. Public debate was circumvented when the Commissioner indicated his mind was made up.

My hope is by blogging I open the door for conversations. One of my biggest issues with the Jaindl debacle was folks didn’t truly understand what was happening until it was “too late”. I plan on doing everything I can to make sure residents have background information on issues. This is one mechanism to do that. I hope people find it useful. Please contact me at if you have any questions or concerns about any issues.

Another light agenda this week. Most committees are meeting for the first time since reorganization last week, this week and next week. The next meeting will likely be a beefier one.

Announcements & Presentations – None

Hearings & Approvals – None

Public Comment on non-agenda items
-Two statements of interest for Zoning Hearing Board. (What is zoning hearing board?) Folks interested can still apply. Apply here.

-Two statements of interest for Audit Advisory Board and one for Public Safety Commission.

-LMT Planning Commission – Recommendation for BOC approval to create a steering committee to establish a Capital Planning roadmap modeled after Penndot’s 12 year plan. A capital improvement plan is a tool used to assess the long term capital project requirements of a government entity. The purpose for LMT is to evaluate requests for capital items such as maintenance of parks, trails, sanitary sewer, storm water management, open space preservation, public works and fire equipment. The written plan would hopefully identify and describe capital projects requests,rank priority, forecast the years in which funding each project is to occur and methods of funding. I support this initiative. Without a long term capital projects roadmap smart growth planning is incomplete. At it’s core, smart growth is important because it lays out a sustainable financial roadmap for our township. Planning ahead for capital needs is critical.

There are 3 letters dealing with snow removal this week. 1 suggestion, 1 complimentary and 1 complaint.

1 request for installation of walking path at Church Lane Park. (see above capital improvements planning!)

Lastly, we have a letter from a resident concerned with tractor trailers turning right onto East Texas Rd. off of Brookside. This is a major concern. One of the biggest priorities over the next 4 years is establishing how we’re going to proactively deal with Tractor Trailer traffic in the township. With the proliferation of warehousing in the township due to the unfortunate tragic rezoning of 100’s of acres of farmland to industrial we face no bigger safety and quality of life issue. I consider this a planning, public works and public safety issue.

Appointments to Boards – None

Planning: Approved MS4 Permit OVERVIEW: The federal Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into waterways without the appropriate permits. Pennsylvania’s Stormwater Management Act MS4 Program, Chapter 102, and NPDES Permit Program for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Construction Activities are amongst the Commonwealth’s methods for meeting the runoff-related requirements of the Clean Water Act. For all practical purposes, though, implementation of stormwater management efforts in Pennsylvania occurs at the community level because individual municipalities are ultimately responsible for adopting zoning ordinances, subdivision and land development regulations, and other programs that keep their locality’s runoff under control. Note: this is an area I am familiar with but need more information about. I will hopefully be meeting with staff tomorrow for a primer on this subject prior to the BOC meeting.

There will be a joint workshop of the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners on Feb 18th. I will post the agenda when it is set.

Committees:  Here is a link to a list of committees & corresponding responsibilities.

At first meetings of the year the Committees will be establishing goals for the year. This was a request by President Conrad. I will outline these goals in a future blog post.

Planning & Zoning – The planning and zoning committee will meet Feb 12th.

The planning commission has nominated Barry Isett and Associates to conduct the East Texas comprehensive planning. We rec’d a 10,000 matching grant from the county to pay for this. The purpose of this study is to explore zoning and planning options for the East Texas area of the township.

We will explore adopting a new Village Zoning District for East Texas that allows a mix of lower-intensity commercial and residential uses. The idea is to use Traditional Neighborhood Development principles as part of infill construction or any redevelopment of parts of any portion of Day-Timers not utilized by a future tenant.  Zoning should help preserve and enhance the historic character and walkability of the village.

These concepts as they relate to LMT are also outlined in the townships draft smart growth plan.

Authorize to advertise: Ordinance prohibiting trucks beyond scenic view on Gehman Rd. I want to see where the signs will be placed. I believe it’s important to avoid signage placed in a way that we encourage trucks to use Scenic View (through a residential neighborhood) as an “out” when they realize they cannot proceed further towards Mountain Rd.

Approval of Street Sweeper and Truck Bid: This is to replace public works equipment. This was reviewed by the prior board as a part of the 2014 budget process.

Work order process for engineering projects: This came out of a recommendation by the Audit Advisory Board to review internal policies for engineering projects.

Review Board/Commission appointment policy regarding the need to interview incumbents. I feel strongly that incumbents should interview each time they are up for re-appointment. Some boards (such as zoning hearing board and planning commission) have people turned away due to lack of open spots. Appointments can sometimes be for up to 4 year terms. I absolutely think incumbents should re-apply for open positions and be interviewed in person at a public meeting.


Smart Growth for Conservatives

Proud to be a contributor at a new blog called “Smart Growth for Conservatives“. 

“Smart Growth for Conservatives provides analysis of transportation and land use issues from a center-right perspective, with an emphasis on fiscal conservatism and market-based solutions.”

Smart growth is an issue conservatives should rally around. At it’s core it’s a blueprint for building long term fiscally sustainable places. So why has it gotten such a bad rap from some in the conservative movement? I’m going to borrow heavily from some of Jim Bacon’s writing here. It’s largely Jim and Strongtowns Chuck Marohn who really hooked me on the underlying conservative rationale. Conservatives mistakenly equate smart growth with intrusive government intervention in the economy, with regulations, subsidies and  boondoggles. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

First, while conservative intellectuals are spot-on in their critique of mass transit subsidies, they are blind to subsidies for roads and highways. While they hit the bulls-eye in their critique of land use restrictions, they ignore the systemic subsidies for green-field development. Their critique runs only one way. – Why Conservatives (mistakenly) hate smart growth – Bacons Rebellion

Bacon identifies 4 broad propositions. Here are the problems and reasons conservatives should be concerned. 

(1) The pattern and density of development has tremendous impacts on the prosperity, livability and fiscal sustainability of our places.

(2) The post-World War II pattern of disconnected, low-density, suburban-oriented development was largely the result of government interventions in the marketplace at the federal, state and local levels. 

(3) That pattern is increasingly dysfunctional, creating congestion and driving up the costs and liabilities of government. (Esp local gov’t!) When up front costs for new development are paid for with transfers of state and federal dollars down to local governments this leads to an illusion of wealth. The problem is when one time windfalls lead to long term liabilities for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange — a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation — is one element of a Ponzi scheme and is the centerpiece of the Strongtowns message. There is no denying we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liabilities in our communities. We are dealing with this issue in Lower Macungie today.

(4) While many people do prefer auto-oriented communities, there is a pent-up demand for walkable urbanism with access to mass transit

Two patterns of Commercial development. 1. Strip Mall, 2. Traditional Main St.  One efficiently capitalizes on public infrastructure and public investments, the other is a resource hog, consuming large amount of of land usually in a towns most precious areas.

Two patterns of Commercial development. 1. Strip Mall, 2. Traditional Main St.
The traditional Main St. efficiently capitalizes on public investments in while the other is a resource hog consuming a large amount of of land in what should be a  towns most financially productive area but what ends up being the least efficient.

So we identified the problems and acknowledge why they are of concern to conservatives. What are the conservative solutions? Here are a few: (and relevance to Lower Macungie in gray)

1. Use the market. Market based open space preservation as a mechanism to keep taxes low. Programs such as Transferable Development Rights. Currently, in LMT we preserve open space primarily with agriculture protected zoning. This is fundamentally unfair to landowners and has failed catastrophically in LMT since it can be overturned by politicians. A TDR program pays landowners for voluntarily severing their development rights by creating a market for density. In a market, the community preserves valuable farmland which in turn keeps taxes low, land owners are fairly compensated for their property and lastly developers are able to purchase density to build in appropriate locations where the gov’t doesn’t need to subsidize their project.

2. Deregulate zoning codes and encourage value capture. We’ve largely regulated ourselves into the our current problems with Euclidean Zoning Codes. The opposite would be a form based zoning code. There will always be a need to separate certain uses. Warehousing is one that comes to mind. Unfortunately here in LMT we’ve allowed a proliferation to an extreme. Warehousing is one example where it’s in the public interest to mitigate impacts with regulations, buffers and costly super-sized infrastructure. But many of the uses we separate with unnecessary regulations don’t have to be if we allow developers to build in the traditional pattern. Think of Main St. Macungie. Here we have residents who live next store to banks, accountants and Doctors.  That’s the traditional pattern that worked for hundreds of years. It’s only recently that we steered away from it when we started building isolated pods. 

3. Do the math. Perform lifecycle cost and benefit analysis to see if development projects are being subsidized by taxpayers or if they “pay their own way” and indeed generate more revenue then liabilities they create. We’re currently considering subsidizing a massive strip mall project. We assume that it will be a tax benefit. Has anyone actually done the math over multiple life cycles? Sure looks great up front. Shiny new boxes and traffic signals. But what happens when the township has to pay for future improvements and maintenance of infrastructure when the bypass is inevitably so congested that it needs to be widened or we have to build a bypass of the bypass. Shouldn’t we be squeezing every bit of revenue out of our most valuable spaces rather then subsidizing the least efficient pattern? (see photo above)

4. Bottom up government. Build only what we can afford to maintain. As mentioned above top down gov’t distorts what a local municipality can actually afford to build with one time subsidies and windfalls. We need incremental economic development grown organically rather then artificially. We must ensure we can afford to pay for new infrastructure over the long run. (Do the math beyond the windfall) Here in LMT we’ve done a great job of securing millions of dollars in Gov’t grants over the years. I’m not arguing that was bad strategy. We’d be foolish not to seek top down money. But over the years we’ve avoided tough conversations about what happens when that money dries up. This conversation came to a boiling point this past Nov. during the tough tax conversations. We came to the realization that we must account for the long term fiscal sustainability of our township if we want to avoid lump sum huge tax increases in the future.  

Interested in learning more? Add to your RSS feed.

About SGFC: Editor Jim Bacon publishes with financial support from Smart Growth America. A life-long journalist, Jim was editor of Virginia Business magazine before launching Bacon’s Rebellion, a blog dedicated to building more prosperous, livable and sustainable communities in Virginia. 

What this blog is.

I started this as a local news blog about 1 year ago. Really informal. Hobby. I wanted to get information ‘out there’ about the Jaindl issue. Raise awareness. First started on Patch but then wanted to catalogue my posts in one place.

At the time I wasn’t going to run for office.  I simply wanted to apply for a volunteer position at the township. After failing to get on the planning commission,  I thought I could get appointed to Parks Board (since ya know I had the support of the parks board..) and I thought it’d be cool to blog about our park system.. So I made a blog.

Fast forward to this happening….

That’s really when I decided I wanted to (well had to…) run for office. I had ideas and people seemed to think my ideas were good/interesting. The Board had different thoughts.

I wanted to see if the majority of voters agreed with my ideas. Turns out they did. At least Republicans during the primary. Gearing up for the primary campaign it was much easier to just convert my existing blog to my campaign site. I thought, heck it contains my thoughts on almost every big development issue. So I just left all the content on it and re-designed a little bit. Created the platform page and welcoming letter. I wanted a site that really dove into the issues. And my blog did that. So it made sense.

When the campaign is over it goes back. Some say it’s bad politics for politicians to blog. That it’s bad strategy. That you should be purposely ambiguous. . . No thanks.

As far as the future I’ve been lucky. The blog kind of took off. Didn’t plan it. In 1 year I had just over 5000 unique visitors of 7000 total and 21,000 pageviews. I have no idea if thats considered ‘good’ or not in the blogosphere but it’s more then I expected.

My weakness is I’m not a technically great writer. Not by any means. I write really conversationally and also oftentimes rushed. Blogging is a big time commitment. That I learned. My strength I think is that I do this cause I care about my community where I grew up. I don’t know all the answers but when I see issues I take the time to look into alternatives and read stuff written by and talk to folks with experience. Really I want to start conversations. Get people thinking about local issues and shine a spotlight on them. I think I’ve been good at that.

It’s even gotten some local, regional and national coverage and re-postings. Regionally I’ve gotten to guestblog on crossroads the Renew LV blog. One post got picked up from SmartGrowth America. Recently a nationwide conservative smartgrowth blogger reached out to do some collaboration.  There may be a conference of conservative smart growth advocates in DC I may attend. Exciting stuff.

For Manda – who puts up with my 2am blogging. 🙂

So yes, this is primarily a land use blog. That’s my passion. It focuses on the East Penn area but I also dive into interesting regional stuff. I also write about local gov’t in general above and beyond land use issues. I also write occasionally about national issues. But I try not to so much to take focus of the blog off local and land use. But I shake it up mostly as a self indulgence every now and then.

It also got me into blogging culture. I hit up my rss everyday and comment often on other local blogs. Check them all out on my blogroll to see who I read. I don’t always agree with everyone but I think the ppl on my blogroll contribute positively to the discussion. That’s what it’s all about. I think blogging is important. I think this post hits it.